Getting away from it all, more or less

August 22, 2002


If your idea of "roughing it" is a weekend in Palm Springs without

an au pair girl, then our idea of a vacation might not appeal to you.

Don't get me wrong. We enjoy a romantic bed and breakfast or

four-star hotel as much as the next couple. But that wasn't on the

agenda this past weekend.

Our main goal was to escape our urban environment and enjoy the


ambience of a wilder place. We invited our buddy Larry Rolewic to

accompany us on a camping trip to Ronald Caspers Regional Wilderness

Park, which is along Ortega Highway in southern Orange County. For

Vic, it was actually a working weekend. He had a birding class to

lead near there on Saturday morning at 6 a.m.

We set up camp Friday afternoon under huge oak and sycamore trees

near San Juan Creek, which was bone dry. Vic pitched our tent, while

Larry simply threw his sleeping bag down on a tarp under the open

sky. While our sleeping accommodations were primitive, our food was

not. Larry had treated us to grilled salmon steaks, wild rice and

asparagus on a previous camping trip. I rose to Larry's challenge

with recipes from Food Network's star chef Emeril Lagasse.

We started with great ingredients. Our neighbors, Bill and Maria

Coffey, have several beautiful peach trees that hang over the fence

into our yard. At this time of year we are awash in peaches, so I

featured them prominently in our meals.

For Friday's dinner, we had chicken marinated in bourbon and

orange juice, sprinkled with paprika and cooked in the marinade with

green onions and chopped peaches. We served it with couscous and

asparagus, followed by a homemade peach-blueberry pie with streusel

topping that I had baked at home.

Before the days of electronic entertainment, people amused each

other with old-fashioned conversation. That's what we did. Like

friends and families of old, we sat under the stars and talked about

the weather by the glow of candlelight. The live oaks around us were

stricken by the drought and we wondered how the deer would fare this

winter with so few acorns. We listened in vain for the wails of

coyotes. Without even a trickle of water in the creek to slake their

thirst, they may have moved to developed areas in search of urban


Vic awoke at some ungodly hour on Saturday morning to meet his

students. By the time I awoke, Larry had made coffee. For breakfast,

we had buttermilk biscuits that I had baked at home in a cast iron

skillet. I sliced the biscuits, slathered them with creme fraiche,

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